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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Archive for the month “September, 2017”

Preparing for the Test

Why is it “Which group of people was brought to the US and sold into slavery?” Shouldn’t it be the other way round? Sold into slavery and then brought to the US?

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Writing Grants

I’m glad I’m not in the sciences because then I’d have to write grants once a year instead of once every 8 years. It’s not an unhelpful process. You get to plan and all that. But I hate writing anything that I won’t publish. I have an article and a conference talk that are languishing while I’m wasting my life on this paperwork. 

Fork

Klara learned the word “fork.” Of course, in her rendition it sounds much closer to a profanity than to fork. 

She carries a little toy fork with her everywhere and drops it constantly. Passersby we very weirded out whenever she yells, “Fork!” It’s good that this is not a society where people feel entitled to communicate their reactions in any way.

Democracy Cracks

I can’t believe Spain’s democracy is collapsing again. I was so sure this time it would stick. Everybody was sure. But soon after the doubts appeared as to whether it had been done right back in 1978, the whole thing began to crumble. Last year, there was a whole stretch of time, almost 10 months, when no government could be elected. And now this whole sorry debacle with Catalonia. 

One can blame Catalonians, one can blame the PP government, one can easily blame them all. But the larger reason is that it’s simply a young, weak democracy that’s collapsing under the pressure that all democracies are feeling right now.

Incredulous

This morning, I received 11 (eleven!) entirely inessential emails from colleagues about completely non-urgent committee stuff. I’m not responding because I have a life. 

No administrator or publisher has ever done anything like this to me. Ever. And then I’ll hear tons of moaning about how the evil outside forces are making people sacrifice their weekends to the gods of neoliberalism. Yeah, right. 

Suffering Idiocy

Every single time, these email discussions with colleagues end with me wailing, “Never again!” and throwing shoes at the computer screen. 

Most of the colleagues are wonderful people who write great comments. But there are always one or two congenitally aggravating individuals who say things like, “You can’t expect the administration to hand out gifts to you in exchange for nothing.” Because cost-of-living increases after 4 years of no raises are somehow a gift. From the administration. In exchange for nothing. I’m sitting on my ass doing nothing and expecting strangers to make me gifts of their own money. That’s exactly what is happening, totally. Made complete sense to get a PhD to come up with this particular gem of logical thinking.

I do not suffer idiocy gladly.  

I Smell Shit

Believe me, folks, I hate being an obsessive, one-issue person. And I never participate in the reductive “administration is evil by default” rhetoric. I loved both the Chancellor and the Provost who worked here when I was first hired. The Chancellor was a bit too in love with promoting athletics and doing marketing for my liking. But he honestly tried to do right by the faculty, and he was largely successful. The Provost was a very professional, inspiring person.

Right now, I’m very pleased with our Dean and several (if not all) people in his office. I’m Eastern European, so I respond well to hierarchical structures and authority. I have a military mentality and like clearly outlined ranks of authority. I like both giving and following orders. 

But for those very reasons, I detest it when people overstep their mandate and try to exercise power they aren’t entitled to. I get very very angry when somebody begins to act like a petty tyrant because guess what? I’m Eastern European. I can smell this kind of rank shit from a hundred miles away.

Are Chairs Faculty? 

Even if we were to accept that an argument about whether Chairs are faculty is somehow relevant to cost-of-living increases, why exactly wouldn’t they count as faculty? 

Chairs are elected by faculty members from among themselves for a 3-year term. They can repeat the term once. After that, somebody else is elected. While they perform their Chair duties, they still do both teaching and service and are evaluated according to the same teaching \ research \ service criteria as all of the other faculty members of the department. 

It’s a deranged argument to have because if we start down the road of saying that performing administrative duties excludes you from the rank of faculty, we’ll arrive at a conclusion that there are no faculty members at this school at all. Because all of us have some administrative duties. It’s called academic self-government, and it’s something we all are contractually obligated to do. ​

I Found My New Rauner

The administration is now saying that we will not get cost-of-living increases unless we recognize that departmental Chairs are not faculty members. This is deranged because they clearly are but that’s not even the point. If we do agree they aren’t faculty, the next thing he will want is that we agree on the meaning of life, the importance of space travel, and minutiae of religious doctrine before getting those puny little salary increases. It’s all a ruse.

But the worst part is that there are already some colleagues who are buying into it and saying, “Well, maybe it is our fault. Maybe we somehow caused the Chancellor trying to give a raise to himself and denying one to us.” 

The Issue

So here’s the issue right now. Colleges see more and more students who don’t need or want to be there because there’s supposedly no life without a college diploma these days. Yet many entry level positions stand unfilled. Mention the word “receptionist” to any small business owner and you will plunge then into a bout of dejection. They either can’t find anybody or find people who make them lose faith in humanity.

Example. People come to work and discover that the email doesn’t work. The server is down. So what does the receptionist do? She sends an email to everybody at the company, informing them that the email doesn’t work. This is a company with six employees who are all sitting right there, 15 feet away from her. 

You’ll say well, this can happen to anybody, it’s not that big of a deal. But what if it’s a daily occurrence? Literally every day something like this happens. You’ll say hire somebody else. But what if it’s receptionist number 6, and it’s the exact same story every time?

It’s a very widespread issue that is the same independent of region or type of business in question. These are low-paid jobs that don’t really lead anywhere. So the workers are not motivated to take them seriously. There is no culturally approved narrative for them to integrate this kind of professional life into their worldview.

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